A few weeks ago a reader commented, “I would love to read about your top 10 listing of things that have filled your time during retirement that you love!!” Hmmm…Did I even have a top 10? Especially a top 10 that I loved? This reader’s comment definitely sparked my thought process. Years ago, when retirement was but a dream, I read an article advising retirement wannabes to have at least 14 different activities to fill their time or face an unhappy retirement. I remember thinking, “How can anyone have that many hobbies, volunteer organizations, games or sports, family occasions, travel or whatever to add up to 14 different activities?” It seemed fantastical, unrealistic, to say the least.

Retirement today is not what it was for our grandparents or even our parents. I believe we are in the forefront of a cultural shift in the way we view aging (stay tuned for another blog on this subject). I read again and again at how people are breaking the mold by pushing the boundaries and limitations our society has set for its aging population. As people eschew the notion that retirement means relaxation and seek, instead, to find further meaning and purpose in the last third of life, yes, I do believe there will be less busyness to fill our retirement hours and more personal evolution. Each evolution is very personal. The way you stretch yourself is different from the way I stretch myself. And, as always, the activities with my husband, Martin and our family is at the top of the list…wife, mother, grandma. That said, below is my Top 10 List.

1. When I retired, I asked myself, “If you were not afraid, what would you do?” So, number 1 on my list is this blog. It was a leap into the unknown, which, because of you, my readers, has returned so much more than I give.

2. A lifelong love instilled in me by my parents, is gardening. Landscape gardening, vegetable gardening, fruit gardening, herb gardening, gardening, gardening, gardening.

Summer Garden

Summer Garden

3. Another newfound love in retirement, a surprise of surprises, is drawing. Trying new mediums, attending art classes, enjoying the company and community of other artists has opened a new vista.

Pencil Drawing of Portia

Pencil Drawing of Portia

4. As a Master Gardener volunteer, I found a volunteer organization where I truly enjoy being involved as it uses my skills as a presenter and teacher. A fun Saturday morning is working the Clemson Extension Master Gardeners booth where I tell people how to improve, grow or manage their gardens.

5. As you read in my last post, being a student at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Furman University is another retirement discovery leading to learning new skills or just plain having fun like the felting or card making classes I took. It’s also led to new friendships and engagement with other retirees.

6. Well, here’s an out of the ordinary activity. Bush Whacker is what I call myself when engaging in the endeavor to clean up our jungle of a woodland. With pine beetles destroying our Virginia Pine and pine blister taking care of anything they fail to chew, I am clearing the small pines, thousands of them. Taking my battery powered chain saw into the damp, dark woods and releasing the oak, maples, beech, dogwood and hickory from their pine prison has proven to be a form of meditation for me. As sections are cleared and apparently dormant wild flowers spring up beneath the remaining canopy, I am awed by the beauty of Mother Nature.

7. I am an admitted foodie…growing, cooking, canning, wine tasting or anything else which has to do with ingesting yummy stuff. Martin and I even tried winemaking and may give it a go again in the future. Like many other things in life, it isn’t as easy as it looks. On our first try, after the hydrometer slipped from my hand, shattering on the kitchen floor, we admittedly just gave up. Last year, the harvest from my 90 feet of planted wine grapes helped feed the wildlife on our property. No wonder the raccoons sported such beautiful coats this year!

Homemade Peach Pie

Homemade Peach Pie

8. Taking a cue from my older sister, I took up knitting as a winter hobby although it’s now extending into the warmer months. Amazed at what I can create with a ball of yarn and two needles has inspired me to create more lovely things. Occasionally, I join a sit n’ knit group, along with a neighbor, at a local Alpaca farm and knit shop. If you join one of these groups, don’t take anything too complicated to knit as it’s more of a social meeting with not so much knitting accomplished.

9. I cannot leave out my role as a cat lover, rescuer, caretaker, spoiler. I LOVE cats! Also known as the Zen Masters, cats are brave, loving creatures who just want to be loved in return. No, I have never met an aloof cat. I am the self-proclaimed ‘Cat Mommy-Slave’ even taking our three indoor cats outside for a 30 minute walk every day that weather permits, which is most days. After about 30 minutes, everyone heads for a door to the house (who says you can’t train cats?) and then it’s snack time followed by nap time. See, Zen Masters.

10. Last, but (sigh) should not be least, is exercise. I now walk an average of 4.33 miles a day either in my neighborhood, on my 6 acres or hiking in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and working in the garden and woods. While I love the views and seeing nature on my hikes, I can’t say this is an activity I really love but it is an activity I do out of love for myself.

After thinking about all the things I do, I could probably get to the fourteen activities I read about years ago. I also love to read, take an occasional trip someplace, go to trendy little towns with trendy little main streets and browse their trendy little shops. And, I love having lunch out with friends or going to a wine tasting at local wineries or visiting public gardens and arboretums for inspiration. So, there you have it…my Top 10. What’s yours?


  1. I love your list and this exercise! I share several of the items on your list and will put some thought into the rest of my Top 10.

    I love walking around my neighborhood for exercise. We have some beautiful views of the bay but I’m envious of your proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Your drawings are wonderful! You have a real talent.


  2. Kathy, enjoyed reading about the adventures you are knitting together in retirement. I agree, it’s a time to linger and to take on new challenges. Sue


  3. Hi K,
    So excited to see my recommendation in your blog of your top 10!! I especially loved the pictures- nice touch! Thanks for the ideas because I retire in Dec. 2015 and welcome all of them . Here are my ten so far:
    1. Start a blog – funny and informative
    2. Visit with my hubby Spanish speaking countries since we are fluent in Spanish
    3. Grow beautiful smelling flowers and organic veggies all in containers
    4. Zumba, Yoga, Spinning, Walking and Weights -of course Salsa & Tango dancing
    5. Learn the fine art of Sushi making, Gourmet Baking and Cooking
    6. Arts & Crafts on ETSY and sell my knitted dresses for little girls- once I learn to knit
    7. Glamping throughout the U.S. to National Parks, craft shows and Jazz festivals
    8. Spend time with my Grandbaby Ben
    9. Declutter and Simplify my home
    10. Read, relax, sip wine and nap in my hammock!!
    Pura Vida, Buena Vida & Dolce Vita!


  4. I’m so glad you like cats! J Now I like you even more! I’ll be thinking of my top ten and get back to you…


  5. Thank you, and your reader, for the idea of a Top Ten list! Even with retirement still about two years down the road, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what will fill the time when I’m no longer teaching. I suspect my list will look something like yours — though I’ve been knitting since I was 8, so I’d like to learn to crochet. There’s something appealing about creating things with my hands– gardens, food, crafts. Is it a desire to leave a tangible mark somewhere before moving on?


    • Hi Kathleen, Interesting question. For me, being creative is almost meditative. I know this sounds metaphysical but creating reaches the real me, not my ego, on a deeper level so I feel like I am tapping into my true self and my true potential. Very satisfying. K


  6. I am just starting year 2 of formal retirement from a 32 year career (I’m 56). After much searching, I found your blog about 4 months ago and love it! I was a workaholic. My whole life was work goal focused and after the “honeymoon period” stage ended, I started to get depressed – I actually took on a work contract, but soon realized that was a mistake. My “second retirement” was much more exciting than my first and I think I skipped the second honeymoon and have launched into the “reorientation stage” now. I’m actively trying to figure out what to make of my new life . (My husband is same age and we retired together – he however, went straight to final stage and can’t quite get my frustrations!).

    There are so many things to do, but I think it will take me some time to settle on a routine (however, I must accept that I may never have a routine because I get bored of things so easy – the joy for me is in new challenges and learning.)

    Things on my list (in progress or want to pursue):

    1. Getting fit and losing my “armchair” weight by walking, hiking, biking. Think I will also try tennis. Perhaps this goal is around discovering that I have an athlete inside of me(despite what my brain has always told me).

    2. Volunteering as board member on my professional association. (Seems a waste to not use my 35 years of experience!).

    3. Family – supporting my recently widowed mother and coaching my kids (who are away at university and discovering themselves.)

    4. Gardening – love the peace and tranquility and feeling of accomplishment that comes from such a simple thing.

    5. Music – have a baby grand that I haven’t played in years……want to relearn the hard classical stuff! Have always wanted to be in a band….just haven’t made that happen….yet!

    6. Art – Have started collecting and pressing seaweed and creating framed images. Have also done a few photos books. One day would like to see if I can draw or paint (my artist sister has always said I can’t draw so have never pursued that.)

    7. Travel – I want to see more of the world.

    8. Cooking – want to take some gourmet cooking lessons.

    9. Continuous Learning – based on some of the ideas I got from you I discovered Coursera – free online university level courses – am signed up for 3 of these now (one on ageing, and a few psychology courses).

    10. Before retiring, one of the top things on my “things to do when I retire” list was sorting, cleaning and culling the years of stuff I’ve accumulated in drawers and closets. They are still there, whenever I get really bored. : )

    The thing I miss most from working is the social interaction – that’s one important “hole” I need to figure out how to fill. Although I have a small tight group of friends and family, it’s not enough for me…..


  7. I love the lists! Great ideas. I want to suggest Road Scholar trips. I went on one in Michigan that had classes in watercolor, TaiChi, and photography. Everything about it was wonderful. Their website is fun to explore.


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